Prepare Our Hearts – December 23

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Mark 8:22-30

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him

A year ago we discovered that our oldest daughter needed glasses when her piano teacher informed us that during their lesson she casually mentioned having difficulty reading from the whiteboard at school. We made an appointment and our subsequent trip to the eye-doctor confirmed that her distance vision was just about as bad as mine, and I can’t legally drive without my contact lenses. While we were relieved that she (finally) told someone about her vision trouble, Meagan and I were a bit frustrated with ourselves that we hadn’t noticed it beforehand. After her nearsighted diagnosis, we started noticing little things like how she always sat closer to the television than her sisters. A few days later, when it was time to pick up her glasses, it was so much fun to watch as she put them on for the first time and suddenly the world became clear. We walked around before we left Costco and she kept moving her glasses up and down, excitedly telling me all the things that she could read now (like “Meat Department” and “Toilet Paper”) that without her glasses only appeared as blurred shapes and colors. This continued all the way home and I would bet that you have never seen an eight-year-old more excited to read “Turn Right Without Stopping” than the one in the backseat of my car that day.

We come now to an encounter that often perplexes new readers of the Bible. Jesus and the disciples came to Bethsaida, and just as many times before, a man in need of healing was brought to them. To the surprise of the man, and his pleading friends as well, Jesus reached out, took him by the hand and went for a walk. Instead of instantly restoring his vision, Jesus carefully guided him out of the village. Once they were away from prying eyes, Jesus did something we don’t see Him do anywhere else in Scripture, He spit in the man’s face, directly on his eyes: bullseye. Jesus then laid His hands on the man’s defective eyes and asked if he could now see. Fascinatingly, the man replied, “I do see people, but they look like walking trees.” Translation: I can see some, but I can not see all. Now just imagine what it must have been like to be the blind man in that moment. After hurriedly stumbling into town to be placed in front of Jesus, the visiting Healer immediately led him right back out, away from his friends, spit in his face, and gave him what initially seemed like a half-measure miracle. He experienced chaos, hope, excitement, confusion, and now at least mild disappointment all in the span of a few minutes.

But Jesus wasn’t done yet. He reached out again, toughed his eyes a second time, and now he saw everything perfectly. He didn’t see blobs or shapes or colors or trees, but faces and features in the most exquisite definition and detail. In fact, when the hands were lifted from the man’s eyes, the very first thing he saw was the smiling face of Jesus. Jesus told him, “Don’t go back to town, don’t go back to your friends. Go home, find your family, see your wife, hug your children, and praise the Lord together for this great thing He has done.”

Jesus and the disciples skipped town as well, this time headed towards Caesarea Philippi, and Jesus took the opportunity on the silent road together to assess all that they had now seen and heard. He asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Of course everyone was talking about Jesus, and the disciples answered His question as best they could. All sorts of rumors were swirling throughout Galilee as to who Jesus really was. Some spoke in hushed whispers that He was perhaps the resurrected John the Baptist, others dared to dream that He was the fulfillment of the promised second coming of the powerful Elijah, and still others weren’t quite sure but had decided that He must be a prophet. Of course, they failed to voice the accusations of the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of being a false teacher and prince of demons.

After they had established the popular consensus, Jesus asked them the most important question anyone could ever answer: “But who do you say that I am?” Okay, we know what everyone else thinks, what about you? Who am I to you?”

True to his impulsive nature, Peter spoke up immediately for all of them and blurted out, “You are the Christ.” To call Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, is a massive declaration, it is to acknowledge that Jesus is God. Mark places this statement almost directly in the center of his gospel, as sort of the climax of the building crescendo of the testimony of the life and ministry of Jesus to this point. There is to be no more guessing, no more questions, no more games about who Jesus might possibly be.

The disciples now know exactly who Jesus is, and yet, as we would see later, they still don’t truly get it. They continued to argue and fight about unimportant things. They tried to keep unworthy people, like children, away from Jesus, more concerned with securing their own places of importance in His impending kingdom. At His hour of greatest need they fall asleep on the job, attempt an unauthorized use of force, run away and hide, deny even recognizing who He is, abandon Him on the cross, and then refuse to believe the reports of His resurrection.

This all leads us to an important question: Just who is the blind man? Despite his declaration, Peter is the blind man. He sees in part, but not in whole. Peter, speaking on behalf of the rest of the disciples, took years to come to his conclusion about Jesus, and yet he is still putting the pieces together.
In another very real sense, we are the blind man. We see in fits and spurts. We may declare with our mouth that “Jesus is the Christ”, but our hearts and actions tell a different story. Even if we have trusted Jesus as the source of our eternal security and salvation, when life throws us for a loop, like this whole 2020 fiasco, in our anxiety and frustration we immediately attempt to wrestle the reigns away from Him and take matters into our own hands once again. We see in part, believe in part, trust in part, but we are not quite where we ought to be.

Just as Jesus’ power was not deficient to restore the sight of the blind man, His power is more than sufficient for even the worst of what life may throw at us. Jesus never promised His disciples that their lives of faith would be easy, in fact he guaranteed that in many ways life would be more tumultuous precisely because of their faith in Him. But He promised them, just as He promises us, that He would never forget the ones He loves. As we prepare to celebrate the arrival of Jesus into our world, let us remember the great lengths that He has gone to secure His place in our hearts. Jesus moved heaven and earth just to be with us. May He give us eyes to see His beautiful face once again.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, today, just as Peter declared so many years ago, we affirm that You are the Christ. You alone are worthy of our worship, You alone are worthy of our praise. You alone have authority and dominion over this world. We pray that You would open our eyes to see and know You as You are. Help us in our unbelief. Be with us in our doubts. Be present in our pain. Be a comfort in our grief. We long to see you face-to-face. In Your precious name we pray, Amen.